It’s been nearly impossible for Northwestern State football coach Bradley Dale Peveto to talk about his program this summer without getting a question or two about the second game on the Demons’ 2011 schedule.
So when the Northwestern State Victory Tour pulled into Baton Rouge on Wednesday for a stop at the Crowne Plaza Hotel & Conference Center, Peveto knew what was coming.
While Peveto has lots of fond memories and friends from his four-year stay on the LSU staff under Les Miles, they’ll remain tucked away until the Demons’ Sept. 10 visit to Tiger Stadium - just a few short miles from where Peveto greeted a large group of Northwestern State supporters Wednesday night.
“I have a rule,” said a smiling Peveto, who’s entering his third season at Northwestern State. “I’m not talking about anybody but Delta State (the Sept. 1 season opener).
“All everybody wants to talk is LSU. All I want to talk about is beating Delta State, and all I want my team talking about is beating Delta State.”
The reason: Delta State played for the NCAA Division II title last fall, and Peveto figures his team will have its hands full even before facing LSU.
“Now the next week, we’re coming to Tiger Stadium and we’ll bring all 115 of our kids to experience Tiger Stadium,” he said. “It’s the best college football venue in the country.”
With that, Peveto turned his attention to the Demons, who will be trying to build on the momentum they gained in the second half of the 2010 season.
After going 0-11 in Peveto’s first season in 2009, Northwestern State was 1-4 before a win over Southland Conference foe Central Arkansas turned things around.
Counting that huge 24-19 road upset, the Demons won four of their next six games and were in position to play for a spot in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs until a loss to Stephen F. Austin in the season finale left them 5-6.
The progress on the field from one year to the next was nice, but it was secondary to Peveto when he addressed the fans Wednesday night.
Chief among his topics were the Demon football team’s No. 1 APR rating in the SLC and the fact 35 players were on the Commissioner’s Honor Roll with five earning All-Academic status from the conference.
“I’m proud of what we’ve done in the classroom,” Peveto said. “We’re done some great things.”
In the spring, Peveto said his team worked on improving the running game, turning around a minus-15 turnover ratio and cutting back on silly penalties - all of which hampered them in 2010.
It was a successful spring which had Peveto thinking only about one thing on a hot mid-summer evening: the Sept. 1 opener.
“We took a big step last season and we need to take that next step,” he said. “That’s where our program is headed.”
Among other staff members in attendance Wednesday night were Athletic Director Greg Burke, women’s basketball coach Jennifer Graf and men’s track and field coach Leon Johnson, who last month completed his 30th season as Demons’ coach. ? While Peveto wouldn’t look ahead, Burke was excited about the Demons’ date with LSU. “It’s awesome that LSU has given our university, along with our football team and athletic department, this opportunity,” he said. “I can’t stop talking about that game.” ? Burke said the school will have 4,000 tickets to sell for the LSU game, of which 1,300 have already been allotted. ? Former Belaire High School and Northwestern State offensive tackle Marcus Spears, who went on to play nine seasons in the NFL, was also in attendance. Spears will be inducted into the “N” Club Hall of Fame this fall.